Jörg BorkowskyThe modern manufacturing landscape is rapidly transforming, influenced by many factors ranging from technological advancements and the ever-evolving socio-political climate, to an increasing emphasis on sustainable practices.

With the European Union (EU) being at the forefront of many of these changes, EU-based manufacturers are adapting, innovating, and looking towards a future of sustainable and efficient production.

Today, we delve into these issues in an enlightening Q&A session with a key industry player: The Steuler Group, a multi-national corporation at the vanguard of manufacturing innovation.

Through this discussion with Jörg Borkowsky, Head of Corporate Development at Steuler Group, we aim to shed light on how technology, global events, and sustainability initiatives are shaping the manufacturing sector, and understand the approaches leading companies like Steuler are adopting to navigate this ever-changing terrain.

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1. How is technology changing the future of manufacturing, and how is Steuler Group adapting to this trend?

While chemical processes and the means to keep aggressive circumstances in production under control haven't changed much in the last decades, our aim is to better understand wear and tear at our customers' plants.

In the future, process data and AI might help us predict damage before it occurs and intervene proactively rather than reactively.

We also aim to reduce the environmental footprint of products that contain hazardous ingredients, e.g., by developing coatings that are free of styrene. 

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2. How are EU manufacturers using advanced technology to improve their operations? 

In our industry, we see many efforts in how manufacturers around the globe try to improve their operations and reduce their CO2 footprint.

Everybody is working on improvements of the durability of products under harsh conditions, such as heat, acids, and abrasion, reducing the environmental impact and increasing the percentage of recycled ingredients, which is a continuous process.

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3. How important is ongoing training for Steuler Group to maintain a versatile team?

Especially in today's "war for talent", being an attractive employer is key.

Solid initial and ongoing training has been and continues to be an integral part of our company.

It doesn't protect us from people who take the training and then leave to work for someone else, but this does not happen too often.

Most employees know and appreciate that we invest in people.

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4. How is Steuler Group assisting manufacturers to innovate and integrate more research into their practices?

Since we are a manufacturer, we know that we need to innovate continuously.

We do so by improving customer processes and developing this together with them.

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5. Given the increase in online threats, how do manufacturers, including Steuler Group, ensure their digital data remains secure?

The cost of keeping the data safe and keeping our employees alert and cautious is growing continuously.

We train our teams, use firewalls, and we continuously improve them.

However, this is a race against many attackers, so we cannot slow down.

The fact that the international community (political agreements and joint prosecution) doesn't seem to be effective in identifying and stopping this kind of criminal activity is a serious problem.

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6. How do global events impact decision-making for EU manufacturers, and how does Steuler Group address these challenges?

If it comes to the Ukraine war, the Covid crisis, the raw material dependencies and so on, EU manufacturers can only take notice and try to cope with the circumstances.

We have decided not to apply our own moral "rules" or add our own political measures against countries or world regions.

We value and appreciate – as long as there is no legal obligation to stop us – any trustworthy and reliable business partner, no matter where and under which political system they are working. And we keep our promises.

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7. In the aftermath of COVID-19, how has the manufacturing scene in the EU transformed, and what strategies is Steuler Group using to adapt?

Not only from COVID but also from other global disruptive factors, we have learned that dependencies can destroy business models and that under a pandemic scenario, several small hurdles can create an unsurpassable wall.

We have also learned that just-in-time supply chains are extremely vulnerable.

We therefore try to negotiate long-term deliveries, rely less on spot markets, and increase our raw material stock.

In a world of increasing cost of capital (owing to inflation), stock has become much more expensive, which might create problems for companies with a high outside capital ratio.

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8. As a multi-national company, how has Steuler adapted to the changes which have resulted from Brexit in its dealings in the UK?

We know that delivery times back and forth have increased and that governments on both sides of the channel seem to think that customs improve the well-being of their people.

Otherwise, we appreciate the continued good and trustworthy collaboration between companies that want to work in an environment without unnecessary obstacles.

However, we react in some areas where, e.g., the free-works costs of deliveries from Italy have remained the same while such costs of imports from the UK have increased.

In many cases, the impact is insignificant.

There has also been a benefit: because of Brexit, it became more interesting for us to invest locally in the UK market, which we recently did. 

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9. As the EU places more emphasis on eco-friendly, social, and governance standards, how is Steuler Group aligning its operations to meet these criteria?

We believe that eco-friendly manufacturing and reusability are an indispensable path. We actively look for opportunities to save and recycle raw materials instead of waiting for regulations.

We believe there is a benefit to this as raw materials and shipping continuously become more expensive.

Since 2012, we have limited waste in our brick factories. Most "recipes" contain recycled materials.

We have always applied social and governance standards and – in those aspects – consider further regulation exaggerated and unnecessary.

Steuler has already set strong internal regulations regarding the reduction of our CO2 footprint and published a sustainability report with a plan to reach net zero.

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10. With the EU's commitment to sustainable practices, how is Steuler Group planning to reduce its carbon footprint in its manufacturing processes?

We have heavily invested in kilns that consume – depending on the products – up to 50% less energy per ton.

We also have invested in a 3.1-hectare photovoltaic field, which produces a large portion of the electricity we need from sunlight.

Both measures have already been completed, not just planned.

Again, we believe that this demonstrates our commitment both environmentally and economically.

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If you are a manufacturing company, like Steuler Group, Myerson Solicitor's Manufacturing team can provide professional legal services. Contact our Manufacturing lawyers on: